Oxford Bees

American Foulbrood

Late swarm

Submitted by will on Tue, 02/08/2016 - 21:17

I was called today to collect a late swarm from Barton. The woman who called me says that it is the 5th swarm this season to leave a nearby feral colony.

The feral colony is living in an air brick in a house about 30m from the apple tree where the swarm was clustered. The swarm emerged on Friday. Today is Tuesday. She'd expected them to disperse but there they were.

Collection was simple. Shake them from a branch at head height into a nucleus box. Leave for 5-10 minutes. Thank everyone and remove.

Back home things are more complicated. I don't have a place for this hive. I'm wondering about AFB. They may swarmed too late to survive the winter - especially in a nucleus box. Plenty of room for error.

The likelihood of AFB seems low. They've been out of the hive for over 4 days so they should be very hungry by now. There were reports of AFB in the area in spring but not since. I'm hoping that things are ok.

The site should be ok. They're in a partially glazed and derelict greenhouse at the moment. It's sheltered, which is probably its only advantage. Shelter, feeding and insulation will all be necessary to help them through winter - assuming that I do help them.

Looking for brood in the new colonies

Submitted by will on Sat, 11/06/2016 - 06:27

I had a quick look into hives B, C and D yesterday afternoon. The news is mixed.

The best news is that I see no evidence of AFB. I'm not experienced enough to be certain so I'll continue to keep a lookout. I'll also review the NBU Foulbrood Diseases advisory leaflet.

Hive C is going very well. They're building in the super, rather than the deep box. They've almost filled the frames with comb. There are lots of brood. I saw sealed brood alongside recently hatched cells. The uneven pattern of hatching suggests that I need watch, to ensure it isn't an early symptom of AFB. The hive has plenty of stores. I saw the Queen, who is unmarked.

Hive D is definitely smaller. It has good stores and has built comb. I saw no evidence of laying: no eggs, larvae or capped brood. I didn't see the Queen (although that's not decisive). I'm fairly confident that they don't have a laying Queen.

Hive B has been there for only 6 days. I didn't see a Queen but it's too early to say what their condition is.

I'm thinking about the next steps. Hive C is fine and just needs monitoring. I need to confirm that Hive D is Queenless. If so then I have options: combine them with Hive C; buy a Queen or give them a frame of brood from Hive C in the hope that they'll grow up a Queen.

My preference is to add freshly laid brood into their Hive and let them create their own Queen. They come from the same mother colony so I'm less concerned about disease. They'll get a slower start to the year but that's ok. I now need to find freshly laid eggs in Hive C.

Hiving the bees: Settling in; preventing AFB; minor mistakes

Submitted by will on Thu, 26/05/2016 - 15:51

The NBU Regional Bee Inspector advises not to leave any comb in the hive when hiving new swarms because of the local AFB outbreak. Two days ago I put the bees into the hive but I had to remove several frames. Today I opened the hive and put clean, comb-free frames back in.

The colony are settling in. They've been building comb, but in the wrong place. The hive is a Commercial body with a super on top. They were such a large swarm (football sized) that I put them in through the super. Unsurprisingly I found them today clinging in a ball to the crown board. They were building comb directly onto the crown board and into the space where the super frames should go.

I put the made up frames into place and very gently put the crown board back down. A piece of comb with fresh honey broke off.

I now have a hive full of frames but also a new problem: tons of space in the brood area but a Queen who'll be building in the super.

American Foulbrood detected in central Oxford

Submitted by will on Wed, 25/05/2016 - 12:05

There is an outbreak of American Foulbrood (AFB) in central Oxford at the moment.

AFB affects very young brood inside the nest and is very serious. Its bacterial spores are transmitted through infected honey.

The bees fill their stomachs with honey when they swarm, so I've been advised that a new swarm should be forced to use up all of this stored honey to remove the chance of transmission. In practice this means:

  • forcing them to build new comb
  • removing any existing comb so they cannot store or infect newly foraged honey
  • inspecting for signs of infection

I've no idea whether the swarm I've accepted has AFB but I'm not going to take a chance.